Searching for Yiddish Land

Teachers, students, and scholars weigh the value of Yiddish in the Modern Age


In a small classroom hidden at the end of the hall on the first floor of UC Santa Cruz’s social sciences building, six students and their instructor struggle to say,“I like the weather today”in Yiddish. It sounds simple, but several students have already stumbled over the treacherous, paradoxical grammar.

After a few false starts, one student finally gets it right, eliciting cheers and applause from her classmates. Wielding a shard of yellow chalk in one hand and an enormous eraser in the other, Jonathan Levitow — UC Santa Cruz’s only Yiddish language instructor — holds his arms out wide and grins sheepishly, as if to apologize for the small triumph enjoyed by his class.

“Yiddish is too difficult to be learned by human beings!” Levitow said.

Searching for Yiddish Land

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